Konica Minolta’s much anticipated B2 inkjet sheetfed press will launch at Drupa 2016.
What does it do?
The Konica Minolta KM-1 is a sheet fed duplex B2-format digital inkjet press, using UV-cured inks. The company calls this the “first machine in the industrial inkjet heavy printing segment” and predicts it will match offset quality more closely than any other digital press to date.
The company has made toner-based digital colour presses since 2006. The KM-1 is its first sheet fed inkjet press and has been developed as a joint venture with Komori, which will sell it under its own name as the Impremia IS29.
UV-cured inks and cool LED lamps enable the press to handle a wide range of substrates including standard offset stocks or synthetics, with no need for special pre-coatings. It can also handle thicker cartonboard stocks up to 0.6mm as well as heavily textured or embossed papers.
When was it launched and what are the target markets?
Konica Minolta and Komori announced the press just prior to Drupa 2012 and a KM-1 prototype was demonstrated running at the show in Düsseldorf, then again at Ipex 2014 and Graph Expo 2015. It’s now in beta sites in Japan and the US with the first European beta going live at an unnamed site around now. The official launch is planned for Drupa 2016 at the end of May. The main target markets are packaging, books and commercial print.
How does it work?
The configuration is broadly similar to other B2 format sheet fed inkjet presses, with offset type feeder, gripper-to-gripper sheet transport and delivery. Konica Minolta makes the print engine (including its own inkjet print heads and controllers), inks and front-end, while Komori provides the substrate feed and transport mechanisms. Komori assembles each press.
It takes oversized B2 sheets up to 585x750mm, allowing six-up A4s.
New 600dpi printheads with piezo shear technology are fitted in pairs to give 1,200dpi. There are eight pairs per full-width print bar and one print bar per colour. Initially, the presses will be wide-gamut CMYK, with five and six colour options in future.
Inline sensors detect misfires and correct on the fly. The head carriage retracts sideways for maintenance and heads can be replaced by the operator.
The most unusual aspect is the UV-cured ink. This was specially developed for the KM-1 and is heated to reduce viscosity, allowing very thin ink films. The LED curing lamps are compact and cool, though a simple fan extractor and duct is required, largely because of the heated inks.
How fast is it?
Production presses will print 3,000 simplex or 1,500 duplex B2 sheets per hour at up to 1,200dpi, with full variable print. This is a little slower than the 3,300sph originally announced. Konica Minolta Business Solutions Europe’s head of market development Mark Hinder says this was needed to achieve the desired feed reliability. There are three printing modes, with the same resolution but different ink drop sizes, which helps reduce ink consumption depending on requirements.
How does it differ from previous models?
This is a brand new “clean-sheet” press design, although it builds on Konica’s experience with its bizhub Pro presses and Nassenger SP-1 textile inkjet, plus Komori’s media handling know-how.
What’s the USP?
According to Hinder, this is a “UV inkjet that has offset quality, look and feel, with the benefits of digital printing”.
How easy is it to use?
Control is largely through Konica Minolta’s digital front-end, which it calls the Inkjet Manager. There will be two performance options, with the more expensive Pro being for full-speed variable data, and the Light type being for less demanding content. Sheet loading and unloading is similar to an offset press.
Konica Minolta offers full service and support contracts, plus operator training at its academy as well as its Digital 1234 business development services.
What does it cost?
Konica isn’t revealing prices until Drupa, but previous predictions have ranged from £1.2m to £1.3m. There’s likely to be a combined per-copy charge with consumables sold separately. UV inks tend to be expensive, though far lower volumes are needed than aqueous inkjet inks as there is no significant evaporation. Konica is predicting significantly lower costs-per-copy than toner presses, allowing the KM-1 to be more competitive against offset on short-to-medium runs.